Men Explain Things to Me
everyone is aware that many children are now raised by grandparents, stepparents, adoptive parents, and other people who did not beget but love them.
    Many heterosexual marriages are childless; many with children break up: they are no guarantee that children will be raised in a house with two parents of two genders. The courts have scoffed at the reproduction and child-raising argument against marriage equality. And the conservatives have not mounted what seems to be their real objection: that they wish to preserve traditional marriage and more than that, traditional gender roles.
    I know lovely and amazing heterosexual couples who married in the 1940s and 1950s and every decade since. Their marriages are egalitarian, full of mutuality and generosity. But even people who weren’t particularly nasty were deeply unequal in the past. I also know a decent man who just passed away, age ninety-one: in his prime he took a job on the other side of the country without informing his wife that she was moving or inviting her to participate in the decision. Her life was not hers to determine. It was his.
    It’s time to slam the door shut on that era. And to open another door, through which we can welcome equality: between genders, among marital partners, for everyone in every circumstance. Marriage equality is a threat: to inequality. It’s a boon to everyone who values and benefits from equality. It’s for all of us.

chapter 5

    Grandmother Spider
    2014

    I
    A woman is hanging out the laundry. Everything and nothing happens. Of her flesh we see only several fingers and a pair of strong brown calves and feet. The white sheet hangs in front of her, but the wind blows it against her body, revealing her contours. It is the most ordinary act, this putting out clothes to dry, though she wears black high heels, as though dressed for something other than domestic work, or as if this domestic work was already a kind of dancing. Her crossed legs look as though they are executing a dance step. The sun throws her shadow and the dark shadow of the white sheet onto the ground. The shadow looks like a long-legged dark bird, another species stretching out from her feet. The sheet flies in the wind, her shadow flies, and she does all this in a landscape so bare and stark and without scale that it’s as though you can see the curvature of the Earth on the horizon. It’s the most ordinary and extraordinary act, the hanging out of laundry—and painting. The latter does what the wordless can do, invoking everything and saying nothing, inviting meaning in without committing to any particular one, giving you an open question rather than answers. Here, in this painting by Ana Teresa Fernandez, a woman both exists and is obliterated.

    II
    I think a lot about that obliteration. Or rather that obliteration keeps showing up. I have a friend whose family tree has been traced back a thousand years, but no women exist on it. She just discovered that she herself did not exist, but her brothers did. Her mother did not exist, and nor did her father’s mother. Or her mother’s father. There were no grandmothers. Fathers have sons and grandsons and so the lineage goes, with the name passed on; the tree branches, and the longer it goes on the more people are missing: sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, a vast population made to disappear on paper and in history. Her family is from India, but this version of lineage is familiar to those of us in the West from the Bible where long lists of begats link fathers to sons. The crazy fourteen-generation genealogy given in the New Testament’s Gospel According to Matthew goes from Abraham to Joseph (without noting that God and not Joseph is supposed to be the father of Jesus). The Tree of Jesse—a sort of totem pole of Jesus’s patrilineage as given in Matthew—was represented in stained glass and other medieval art and is said to be the ancestor of the family tree. Thus coherence—of

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